Potato Chip Bags, Shiny Balloons, and the Electric Grid: What You Need to Know
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Potato Chip Bags, Shiny Balloons, and the Electric Grid: What You Need to Know

How much damage can a potato chip bag cause? More than you would think. On a blustery spring day in 2018, a potato chip bag blew into a Delmarva Power facility in Salisbury, Md., damaging the electric equipment and knocking out service for nearly 2,600 customers. These types of outages are preventable and the ill-fated story of a little potato chip bag in Salisbury should serve as a reminder to dispose of potato chip bags properly. 

So why are potato chip bags, or products similar products like mylar balloons, so dangerous to the electrical grid? The answer: foil coating. Foil coating found on some potato chip bags is also found on those shiny balloons you see for a variety of celebrations. When it contacts power lines or electrical equipment, its metallic properties can cause a surge of electricity that disrupts power and damages equipment. In fact, untethered balloons cause hundreds of unnecessary service interruptions for our customers each year.

If your celebration involves a shiny foil balloon, or two, here are some tips to follow:

  • Always keep balloons tethered and attached to weights.
  • Properly dispose of foil-coated balloons by puncturing them to release helium that otherwise could cause them to float away.
  • If your grip does happen to slip, NEVER touch a power line or attempt to retrieve a balloon that is entangled in an overhead power line. For assistance, call us at 1-800-898-8042.

So, whether it’s a potato chip bag or a shiny balloon in your hands, take the extra step to secure it properly. Take it from us, your date won’t be impressed if you cause a power outage in their neighborhood.